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Total Direct Energie forfeits Giro spot, opening door for Italian team

Citing its small roster and focus on the classics and Tour, Total-Direct Energie will bypass on its automatic bid to race the Italian grand tour in 2020

French team Total Direct Energie is bypassing on its bid to race the Giro d’Italia despite winning the automatic classification for 2020, officials confirmed Thursday.

Direct Energie ranked first in the second division UCI classification in 2019, and with new rules, the Professional Continental team earns spots in all the WorldTour events in 2020, including the three-week Giro d’Italia.

Citing a relatively smaller team of only 24 riders and a larger focus on the classics and the Tour de France, team officials confirmed to Giro organizers it would not be racing the season’s first grand tour in 2020.

“After discussion with the sports management, we decided not to go,” said team boss Jean-René Bernaudeau. “While we were delighted to see our first place in the Continental Pro rankings last October, our recruitment was almost complete. We did not have enough time to adjust the [roster].”

Bernaudeau said the team simply doesn’t have enough warm bodies to race the spring classics, the Giro and the Tour de France. By passing on the Giro, the team can fully commit to the spring classics, and then have time to recover for the Tour.

The news will come as a salve for Italian teams hoping for a chance to race the Giro, May 9-31.

With the WorldTour expanding to 19 teams next season, that already means there is one fewer starting spot for wild-card bids for the 22-team roster in the Italian grand tour. And with Direct Energie having the right to its invitation, that would have meant only two spots for Giro organizers to hand out to second-tier teams.

With Direct Energie stepping aside, Giro boss Mauro Vegni will now have three invitations to consider for the “corsa rosa.” At least two of those could be expected to go to Italian teams, meaning that one of the three Italian Pro-Conti teams for 2020 — Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec, Bardiani-CSF-Faizane and Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia — might be locked out.